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Family of 5; Novice skiers; Looking to go for Christmas 2011. I haven't got a clue so any help gratefully received.

(38 Posts)
montysorry Wed 08-Dec-10 12:06:30

Title says it really.
Me, DH and 3kids looking to go away next Christmas. DH very keen to try skiing as he gets the P taken out of him a bit at work for not having skied before.
Kids will be 8, 6 and 4.

I have no idea where to look and I'm quite anxious as I hate stressful holidays. Kids will need ski school I guess and we will both need lessons.

No idea what sort of accomodation we should be looking at. I would like to avoid somewhere trendy where all the experienced skiers go. My ideal (though I'm sure this is unrealistic) is somewhere pretty much geared towards beginners.

Do I need ski in/out? I'm not even sure what that means and what the benefits of it are.
Do I take the children to lessons then go to mine or is that too easy?

I'd rather be right in the thick of it as my idea of holiday hell is having to drag everything to a set point then wait for transfers etc.

Also, I'd like things to do other than ski and somewhere that would be very child orientated for Christmas rather than a party atmosphere.

Sorry for so many questions, I have looked in the archives but they just left me more confused than ever. grin

natation Wed 08-Dec-10 12:51:30

I'm not normally a fan of a package holiday, usually it is cheaper to do your own package, but from what you have written, I'd advise looking at the following companies :

Ski Bizz, they have quite a following among the Brits who are money savvy. They only operate out of one resort in France which is very small, but looks ideal for a novice family. It is ski in and out accommodation AND near the ski school and ski lifts (no good having ski in and out if you cannot yet ski on the slope near where you are staying) so no bus transfer or long walk to ski school or ski lifts. The company does its own ski school in English, you'll save roughly 50% off their prices if you instead choose French ESF school but for first timers, maybe the added cost is worth it to go with this ski school. They have on-site child care. It is all apparently very economical compared to a catered chalet oriented family ski company such as ski Famille or Ski Esprit or Crystal. Take a look at their website.

An alternative is Rocket Ski, you can fly with them or self-drive. They go to several resorts, basic half-board accommodation, looks most if not all is ski in and out and mentions in many descriptions how near the hotels are to ESF ski school.

Do do your Maths, if money is tight. Do look beyond basic holiday costs, find out ski hire and ski pass prices. Usually ski hire and passes are cheaper to reserve direct, rather than buying from a travel operator. Look out for resorts with "family" packs where you get a family reduction of ski passes, some French resorts you pay from 5 years old, some from 6 years old, in Switzerland you pay generally from 9 years old, but what you save in having free skiing for under 9s, you usually lose in the cost of ski school, food, which is more expensive. In Puy St Vincent, where Ski Bizz operate, you would pay for 2 adults and 2 kids, total 6 days of passes this year is only £376 (450 euro) which is very very cheap for 4 people. At the bigger French resorts, you would be paying up to double that, especially in the most expensive resorts such as Val d'Isere. Novices do not need big ski areas and the small areas such as Puy St Vincent are ideal.... why pay for 600km of ski area when you are only go to be able to use 50k of it as a novice!!!

mary21 Wed 08-Dec-10 17:39:28

In your position a family ski operator is a good bet as they will organise most things for you. Typical companies are, Ski Famille, Family ski company, Ski Hillwood, ski esprit , snobizz, Mark Warner and crystal ski(with wizz kids), some are very pricey! . For your youngest and possibly the 6 year old you may well only want 1/2 day ski school then 1/2 day kids club. Personally I like chalets with kids early tea then an adult dinner with kids supervision but everyone is different. Skiing can be very tiring so the idea of cooking in the evening doesnt appeal!!. I agree you dont need a massive resort as a beginer. Many of the kids friendly companies will take the kids to ski school and bring them back. So you are free to sort yourself out.

montysorry Wed 08-Dec-10 17:59:39

Thank you both!

A small resort is probably what I'm looking for as long as the ski school is what we need.

I'd hope to find someone who did it as a career rather than a 20yr old uni student who has taken the job to get free skiing and meet girls. (I remember lads doing this when I was at uni but maybe things have changed now!)

We have a maximum budget of about 6k tops. Ive no idea whether this is realistic or not but I'd rather use it on stuff like the accomodation and proximity to stuff and the ski school rather than on a resort just because it's trendy.

Is France my best bet then? Is everywhere pretty much snow sure at Christmas? What is the Christmas atmosphere like in these places?

Today I've had two recomendations; one is La Plagne and the other is to go to Levi in Finland as I'm told they'll be loads of non ski stuff to do.

Natation, thank you for the recomendations. I will have a look at those.

I've had a look at the Esprit website but it's a bit rubbish and doesn't tell me much about the resorts. What I need is 'Skiing for dummies' grin

WhatsWrongWithYou Wed 08-Dec-10 18:05:07

[[ John/dp/0764551612/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid= 1291831431&sr=1-1 grin.

Have a great time!

WhatsWrongWithYou Wed 08-Dec-10 18:06:35


Try again blush

montysorry Wed 08-Dec-10 18:12:39

Mary, the different sittings for eating is something I really don't want. It's why we've always avoided MW holidays in the past.

I'm not sure that chalet holiday is for us as I'm not at all keen on sharing accom and dinner with strangers. I want relaxed, informal eating with my kids. DH works long hours and is often away so he rarely gets to eat with them so doing so on holiday is quite important to him. Though, of course, you are probably right that we'll be shattered.

natation Wed 08-Dec-10 18:13:45

ooh 6k tops, blimey we ski including hire, passes, ski school for everyone for 2k euro!!!! But I'm part Scottish, my best friend says "toi tu fais toujours ta juive" (apologies for the religous/racist remark) and she is right, I'd rather have 3 weeks of self-catering skiing per year at 2k than one week at 6k. Do not worry at all about your budget.

Many resorts have non skiing stuff, not just la Plagne, la Plagne is NOT picturesque, perhaps with the exception of the satellite Les Coches (think it's there). IF you really want to blow all your budget, go for something really cute like a Swiss or Austrian resort with beautiful wooden buildings, or stunning scenery again like a Swiss resort (Jungfrau area arguably most scenic), or unique like a satellite of Chamonix such as Vallorcine (to get your small resort feel) where you could spend a day doing Aiguille du Midi, Montenvers, Tramway du Mont Blanc.

montysorry Wed 08-Dec-10 18:14:40

Thanks, Whatswrongwithyou! grin

I'll def get that one. I need a rough guide to the various resorts too if anyone knows of a good one.

montysorry Wed 08-Dec-10 18:30:41

Natation, I honestly have no idea how much it all costs so if I can get away with spending less, I will. DH is very much Scottish and hand on heart is the least 'tight' man I have ever met. Have to also say whenever we've gone up there I've never met anyone less than generous (though maybe they feel they have to prove something to the girl from surrey! wink)

I don't mind the resort looking ugly architecturally (sp?) if it is a great family resort with lots to do and not packed to the rafters with 'the beautiful people' showing off their skiing skills.

There must be a resort that has rubbish ratings for more advanced skiers but is perfect for us.

Thanks everyone. I guess I need to do a lot of research.

PatriciaHolm Wed 08-Dec-10 20:50:19

We always go here - Very family friendly, good starter slopes, ski school. Not huge, but a short drive to Val D'isere which is much bigger, and it has a couple of nice restaurants and a bar.

cazzybabs Wed 08-Dec-10 20:55:26

We stayed in a catered chalet with friends, We stayed in les Arcs - it was really nice. I had never skied before (not sure I will ski again but I am a coward). The kids loved it and are going again to Val Thorns (no idea about spelling) - both french

WhatsWrongWithYou Wed 08-Dec-10 21:26:15

I wouldn't worry about 'les bons gens' showing off their skills; you'll be on the beginners' slopes and won't see them anyway - unless you go where we're going in Italy, where everyone ends up on the same last bit of slope for the precarious last 200 metres or so.

I'm afraid that's about as far as I can help as the first time we went with friends who'd been to this resort previously, and although it's cheap and cheerful and the food's great there isn't much for the non-skiers (which is me after about the third day).

In hindsight, if we'd had the money, a package would probably have been better; more chance for the DCs to meet other English kids, and I could have learnt in a big group, and slacked off rather than the intensity of one to one with a Kamikaze instructor smile.

WhatsWrongWithYou Wed 08-Dec-10 21:27:43

And we've never had 'ski in ski out,' but just try to get a hotel reasonably near the slopes (but away from the PGL place!)

montysorry Wed 08-Dec-10 22:11:33

Yes, I think we def want a package holiday. Maybe I will look into Levi!

What are the benefits of hotel over chalets?

fedupwithdeployment Wed 08-Dec-10 23:00:02

At Christmas it will probably be cold - but it is likely to be a lot colder (and darker) in Finland than France. I haven't been to Finalnd, so please correct me if I am wrong.

As first time skiers I would recommend package and probably chalet...lot more homely and probably more flexible than you would get in a hotel. Also posibly better value. Having said that it is a long time since I did either (pre kids).

I would go for a small resort - you will save a lot of money compared with the big names. People get blinded by the miles of piste you can ski on - well as a family of beginners, you will be happy somewhere with about 30 km of mainly green, blue maybe a red. Easy to do on the web - but if you are doing package, flick thorugh a brochure and get an idea.

I do hope you have a lovely time.

montysorry Wed 08-Dec-10 23:05:13

Thank you fedupwith.
My issue with chalets is that it seems they do separate evening meals for kids and adults. I'm really not keen on this. Are there any companies who do not stick to this rule?

cazzybabs Wed 08-Dec-10 23:11:39

We had separate meals for the kids - which was something I didn't like but to be honest they were tired and hungry early on. Plus we did eat out 1 night (because the chalet host has a night off) but because it is the continent event though we ate as early as we could it still make it late for the kids.

montysorry Wed 08-Dec-10 23:26:15

Thanks, Crazybabs!

I guess it's just because we get to do it so little when not on holiday that it's an important part of the holiday for us.

Also, we are all kind of morning people and on summer hols are normally up and showered by 7 or 7.30 latest and all ready for bed by 9pm (dull, I know!)

The chalet thing also worries me regarding noise. I'm worried there will be lots of noise and kids running around at 10pm when I'm trying to sleep.

Maybe I'm too uptight for skiing! grin

Nettee Thu 09-Dec-10 08:00:07

Hi Montysorry - Crystal are relaxed about when the children eat. They can eat early or have their childrens tea with their parents or even have the proper adult meal (I think). However they are cutting and cutting their chalet hotels with childcare arranged by crystal themselves. Have a look at Grande Claviere in Claviere. Fairly basic hotel but has had a good review from a mumsnetter and not far from the skiing. Crystal are selling next year's holidays already. (disclaimer - I have not been to that one, all the Crystal holidays I have been on don't operate anymore)

Other companies that I fancy include Chilly Powder in Morzine - where I am going this year so shall report back. And Venture Ski in Sainte Foy. (both of these are ski to the door and Sainte Foy is small and family friendly as a resort). Also family ski in saas fee (with a swimming pool) although not very close to the slopes. All of these ones don't have children at dinner.

Snowbizz does sound amazing both in value and their ski school set up. It is self catering which puts me off [lazy]

Nettee Thu 09-Dec-10 08:08:45

if you book a whole chalet then you can all eat together whoever you go with.

30andMerkin Thu 09-Dec-10 08:21:43

Flaine is very family friendly, and relatively high for snow. Lots of big wide novice slopes coming in and out of the main resort above the children's snowparks would make it easy for you to meet up pre-post lessons etc too.

It has a main village made up of 60s blocks (Foret & Forum, 2 levels) which are pretty ugly but traffic free and short walk to the lifts, although the only one I ever stayed in (a Pierre & Vacance flat) was very basic. Further up the hill they have something called the Hammeau, which are chocolate box modern wooden chalets, with a shuttle bus between the two.

If the whole skiing game is new to you you may find it easier to go to a chalet/chalet hotel/ or with another family though as it takes a bit of practice to figure some things out and you'll probably save yourself some time if you're with people who you can pick the brains of!

Enjoy though, it's a fab age to get the kids started and in a couple of years they'll be whizzing past you!

greygirl Thu 09-Dec-10 09:44:06

with your budget I would definatly take a package, somewhere in europe. Most chalets do have seperate eating times so I would look at a hotel or a 'chalet hotel' (which are bigger and therefore more flexible), or self catering.

We go with snowbizz and they are fantastic (there is a catered option with a local restaurant). There isn't a swimming pool, and the resort is small (so not a lot fo shops). We don't mind because there is a sledging run and my children adore playing in the snow, and they loved kids club (even at 4) which has a disco night, film night etc. The creche is also very well done, with the same nannies running it this year as last year.
you might want to consider saas fee - it is very pretty, with no traffic in the centre so horse drawn carriages etc, and zell am see in austria is great too - pretty, snow sure and a lot to do - and a lot of the travel operators use hotels (in zell) so you all can eat together.

i would thoroughly recommend also some skiing lessons in the uk - you and your hubbie could do 'learn to ski in a day'at an indoor slope which will mean you are a bit more familiar with the equipment, and have an idea what to expect. (the kids can also have lessons but prob not a whole days worth)
best of luck, and enjoy it!

how exciting!!

montysorry Thu 09-Dec-10 10:03:30

Thank you, Nettee, 30andmerkin and greygirl. All really helpful stuff!

Nettee, I will look into smaller chalets but I haven't really seen any for as small as 5.

No chance of going with another family or anyone else I'm afraid. So we'll just need to pick it up as we go along. I'm assuming all the obvious stuff is in the brochures. We have no idea about clothing either so I guess that's another thread. The transfer worries me too which is why places like Bulgaria and Slovenia have caught my eye in the brochures.

greygirl Thu 09-Dec-10 10:26:31

i really fancy slovenia - i think it is bled that i like the look of. snowbizz has a 4 hr transfer, which is long, but they put on a dvd and the kids sleep a bit, so it's not so bad. zell had a much shorter transfer i seem to recall.
to be honest you'll be fine as first timers - but i really would try lessons in the uk, just to get you up and running. it is so lovely out in the mountains, and you have to remember to stop and have hot drinks etc so you can enjoy the mountain scenery too.

as for clothes - get down to tk max/aldi/lidl/matalan and look for cheap clothes or get hubby to ask friends at work if they have stuff they can lend you (at least for the kids trousers and maybe also jackets)

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